Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘historical’

Fictional Realities

41jh2yi72qlThere is a friend of mine, who worked with me as a nurse at hospice a few years back. One day, after work, I met her husband. When I asked her the next day how they’d met, she told me she’d been married to his brother. Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Tell me more. What arose from her telling was a story that sounded like a movie. She isn’t the kind of person who jokes around, so I knew she was telling the truth, though it could have been the best of fiction. That’s when I decided to make it just that – a fictional story based on real life. Loving Annalise was the result.

After years of poverty, heartbreak, loss and betrayal, Tomas enters Annalise’s world and shatters the iron casing she’s erected around her heart. Tomas is kind, intelligent, romantic and handsome, but he’s also her husband’s brother! Once Tomas and Annalise meet, they are forever intertwined and repeatedly ripped apart by fate, self-doubt and blackmail. Her husband, Jens, is a brilliant, jealous and manipulative scoundrel who keeps her psychologically under lock and key, until her passion for Tomas sets her free.

Writing Loving Annalise is the second time I’ve written a novel based on historical realities. Buddha’s Wife was the first. Though most of the people in the story existed, and some of the places, times, and words are reported to have been accurate, the majority of the conversations, interactions, and story-line were imagined. Like Loving Annalise, Buddha’s Wife is based on history, and people that were living breathing beings.

Loving Annalise, and Buddha’s Wife, are the only time I have written stories in this fashion. Normally (whatever that is), I either write straight fiction, or non-fiction, about a specific person, place, or issue, and do not attempt to combine these disparate genres. That doesn’t mean that parts of my life, and personal experiences, do not influence or become part of my writing, but not intentionally (that I am aware of).

White Dog Fell from the Sky

White Dog Fell from the Sky: A Novel by Eleanor Morse
New York Journal of Books. 3 January, 2013
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

0670026409.01._PC_SCLZZZZZZZ_“. . . a satisfying, savory dish that should be served alongside the best in contemporary multicultural fiction.”

There are not enough adjectives to describe the strength of this story.

Eleanor Morse has written a character driven novel with character. White Dog Fell from the Sky has a life of its own that blends reality, insight, observation, and nuance with such ease and grace you forget you are reading.

Two of the main characters, Isaac Muthethe and the white dog, are immediately dropped into reader’s laps with perfect clarity and timing. Their circumstances and environment can be absorbed and felt, as though you are inside Isaac’s skin as he lifts himself up from the dusty Botswana road.

At its core, White Dog Fell from the Sky is a powerful story of love – love of a person, a people, a land and living with purpose. It involves a medical student (Isaac) who must flee apartheid infested South Africa in 1976, after he witnesses his friend’s murder at the hands of the South African Defense Force and the American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who he befriends in Botswana. Alice followed her husband to Africa and works for the Botswana government.

When Isaac goes missing, her marriage disintegrates and a new love comes into her life, Alice abandons all pretext, while Isaac tries desperately to save the rest of his family and himself, from the terror, torture, shame and killing in his homeland.

The novel’s insight into land, people, relationships, culture and political realities is superb. It is easy to identify with many people in the story, including Isaac and Alice, regardless of one’s personal background or home of origin. The Africans and Europeans who populate the pages are honest embodiments of fellow human beings we have all known—fragile, strong, abusive, kind, and complicated.

Each individual has his view of the world shaped by his experiences and expectations. When Isaac describes his “friend” Amen, who is working with the African National Congress (ANC) in Botswana and Angola, he sees “. . . an ancient injury living side by side with arrogance. Menace, the child of the union.”

Alice and her marriage are described as, “You could see their hearts were not beating together, the blood in their veins wanted to flow toward different oceans.” Alice realizes that, “She and Lawrence had slid into each others lives in simple, naive faith.”

Eleanor Morse’s story is emotionally riveting, heartbreaking, and at times unbearable, while simultaneously embracing hope, insight, and a sense of perpetual mystery.

Each sentence is more beautiful than the last. Some aspects, such as the mutual respect and understanding that develops between Alice and Isaac, are similar in its depth and ambition to the literary masterpiece by Alan Patton and his characters in Cry, the Beloved Country.

Read entire review and others at New York Journal of Books.

A Novel Novel

A few quotes, by some celebrated writers, about the remarkable new novel by Deena Metzger titled La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary.

Many meetings weave in and out of this splendid, heartbreaking novel. Meetings of multiple Americas, meetings between the living and the dead, meetings where dreams and reality, history and pain, deception and hope, intersect. But above all, what we meet in La Negra y Blanca is a ravishing wager that words can still birth us into the puzzle of existence, that we can all be mothers to one another as the storm approaches. Perhaps her best (and strangest) novel.

Ariel Dorfman, author of Death and the Maiden

This brave and heartrending novel reaches out to the soul, leads us through the traumas of history and weaves together in its characters the dialectic of past and present that marks us all. Metzger illuminates the heritage each of us bears of the sorrows of Conquest and the poignancy of survival. La Negra y Blanca movingly depicts the price we pay for our too-large footprint on this earth and invites us to awaken and reach for a harmony with one another and a universe that has given us life. A splendid journey!!

Nancy Caro Hollander, author of Uprooted Minds: Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas

Deena Metzger has written a novel of great beauty, power and wisdom. It is a bordererasing, culture-leaping, time-and-space shattering inquiry into the re-visioned lives of Guatemalan-American writer Victor Perera, novelist and once Vice President of Guatemala Mario Monteforte Toledo and his daughter Morena, whose mother was a Tz’utujil Indian. Told from the perspective of the American writer Blanca (who the reader assumes is a fictional incarnation of the author), the novel follows the ripple effects of indigenous Latin America’s conquest by Spain into contemporary reconquests of the region by dictatorship and imperial power, and on into the inter-woven lives of its protagonists living in both the US and Guatemala. It is a meditation on memory — historical and personal — part vision quest, part detective novel. It bears witness to great historical and personal tragedy, to fraught relationships conditioned by politics, ethnicity and gender, to courageous resistance of spirit and creative genius in the face of injustice. It summons past and future into a shimmering invention of a present that is an act of love.

Robert David Cohen

This is a narrative of conquest and hope, domination and flight, surrender and transcendence. Wisdom leaks through misty realms between memory and imagination. Each character embodies the whole of the world. Divided by bloodlines, class, history and politics, all unite in a pilgrimage of hope. If ever I am headed to the afterworld and allowed to bring just one book, La Negra y Blanca would be the one.

Terry Marks-Tarlow, author of Psyche’s Veil: Psychotherapy, Fractals and Complexity

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